DOJ backs state’s anti-sanctuary law
Cities filed suit against SB 4
The Justice Department is backing Texas in its defense of an anti-sanctuary city law the state passed this year, arguing that the law does not violate the Constitution.
The state’s four largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin — have all signed onto a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) in an effort to block implementation of the law, which is set to take effect Sept. 1. The suit claims the law is unconstitutional and undermines local municipalities’ sovereignty by forcing them to carry out the agenda of the federal government.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the anti-sanctuary city law in May. It prevents municipalities from implementing policies that block local law enforcement officials from sharing immigrationrelated information with federal immigration officials and gives the state the option to fine jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate — even allowing the state to threaten uncooperative law enforcement officers with jail time.
The law will also permit police and sheriff’s departments to inquire about the immigration status of those they stop during routine business.
In a statement of interest filed Friday, Justice Department attorneys wrote that SB 4 “represents an important decision by the state of Texas to ensure this cooperation occurs uniformly throughout the state.”
The DOJ argued that the law is not at odds with the 10th or Fourth Amendment, and that state cooperation with federal officials is plainly permitted under the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“Parties may disagree with the state legislature’s policy determinations in enacting SB 4, but nothing in federal immigration law precludes a state from directing law enforcement officers in the state to cooperate with the federal government, rather than merely permitting them to do so on an ad hoc basis,” the DOJ filing stated. “Nor does SB 4 raise Tenth Amendment concerns. No federal statute commandeers state officials, which would be necessary for such a challenge.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the law is in line with President Trump’s commitment to “keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws.”
“The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws,” Mr. Sessions said.
The first hearing in the case is scheduled to take place this week in San Antonio.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that the DOJ’s involvement in the case was “reassuring.”
“Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into our communities,” Mr. Paxton said. “We look forward to working with DOJ lawyers to see that Senate Bill 4 is fully honored in Texas.”
The Texas attorney general also responded to the cities’ request for a preliminary injunction.
In a response filed in court Friday, the attorney general’s office defended SB4, noting that the law “does not require officials to take any specific action. Rather, it displaces policies that never permit officials to ask about immigration status.”